2022: LEAN Up debriefing of your company’s tax season

Another busy season is upon us and one of the most productive things a business can do over the next few weeks is to take the time to formally take stock of the past few months, recognize what has gone well and identify bottlenecks that could be improved. .

The summer months provide time to explore solutions by reviewing accounting vendor options, networking with peer firms and attending conferences where these solutions are discussed, but these efforts must be made with a concise plan. and prioritized focused on key areas where the firm wants to improve.

In addition to the traditional exploratory process of walking through each step of tax filing, we suggest you consider the added Lean Six Sigma tact of asking “Why is the process step actually done and how does it add- she value to the client perspective?” Focusing on areas where the customer experience is improved often provides the best return on any proposed change, especially since many digital processes actually reduce direct interactions with customers.

Areas where there is no obvious added value or reason for a step to be taken open the discussion to seek alternative processes and solutions. Below, we outline seven areas where you need to challenge your processes and where technology and adopting a LEAN approach can improve your business processes, as well as your customer interactions, this season. extension.

Accumulation of source documents:

What is the company’s process for gathering all of a customer’s data in one place and is this the most convenient method for the customer? With today’s portals and secure messaging solutions, firms should explain to clients how they can deliver digital documents instead of taking the time to come to the firm or place the documents in the mail. Virtually all business customers have access to a scanner in their office and also find using PDFs and digital delivery more convenient for them.

Many of today’s entrepreneur customers and the children of existing business owners (who may one day become customers) prefer to do all their work digitally on their tablets or smartphones, so the business should promote in a proactive digital solutions, especially those that are integrated into the company’s tax system. processing, document management and portal applications. For customers who physically deliver or ship documents, centralized scanners for production scanning in the back office are a must.

Standard customer file organization/annotation:

Most customers don’t care how their source documents are organized, so the business has to ask itself “what is the most efficient way to organize data for business production?” The obvious answer is to have all of the company’s tax records organized in the same “company standard” format so that everyone can organize and attach files, and everyone knows where to view the documents. on-screen sources, because they’ve all been trained on this. .

Automated tools such as CCH Scan, TR Source Document Processing, Drake GruntWorx, and SurePrep not only force this standardized organization, but they can import information from the most commonly recognized customer tax forms directly into the company’s tax program. This saves time in both the preparation and review process. Standardized markup tools such as CCH PDFlyer, Tick Tie and Calculate, and Adobe Acrobat also add efficiency to the tax process, as staff can work and review at their convenience as long as they have digital access to a file. . This opens up the possibility of remote review and secure review on devices such as a personal computer or tablets.

Due date tracking:

When a client calls to inquire about the status of their return, is it easy to give them that information? The use of individual spreadsheets and stand-alone tools creates redundant data being tracked and does not always allow everyone access to the most up-to-date information, so the response to the client may be an outdated response or even delayed until the employee has access to this list. Using a workflow tool (CCH Workflow [formerly XCM]CCH Workstream, TR Firm Flow, Doc-It Workflow) or projects in practice management allows the employee to immediately access this data on their computer screen, including status and provide deadline notifications close ones with warnings so they can’t be missed, and with the right infrastructure, can be viewed on a tablet or smartphone so customers’ updates are at their convenience.

Preparing for the return:

Clients have no idea who is preparing their return, so it is more important that the return is stratified by complexity, managed efficiently with other ongoing returns, and routed to the appropriate level person. This can be done more efficiently with one of the workflow/project tools listed above than with manually updated individual spreadsheets. By using standard company organization/annotation tools and having an appropriate number of monitors to display all the necessary data, staff can be trained to optimally prepare a return to the screen according to a single corporate standard.

One area that customers are concerned about is the accuracy of the data in their declaration. Training the preparer on how to verify the data that has been entered, by completing a verification routine and a checklist of the most common editor corrections, builds quality control into the preparation process that reduces the amount rework at the reviewer level (thus, feedback is completed at a lower cost).

Return notice:

The tax return review process is often one of the biggest bottlenecks in business that delays the completion of tax returns. The practice should ask itself whether the client really cares that a specific person reviews their return by tradition, or whether there are other staff who can do so at some level or area of appropriate expertise. As mentioned above, most returns can be stratified by complexity prior to peak season and placed on a pre-determined workflow path to be routed to a specific person or tax return pool tier who can also notify the direction if a person becomes overloaded.

Simpler returns can be reviewed and finalized by a senior executive or manager, which relieves some of the stress on reviewing partners and ultimately completes the return with a higher margin. One of the mantras of “LEAN” processes is “Do it, do it well, do it now”, which means that the reviewer should do everything possible to complete and move the return forward if possible. . There are times when a return is completely wrong and needs to be sent back, but this significantly reduces the profit margin on the return. However, if the picker can be brought in (physically or virtually) and make all the corrections in real time, it’s not only a great teaching moment but it frees up time and increases the return profitability that typically occurs in the last weeks of the busy season anyway!

Organiser/Return/Delivery Invoice:

Although every business has a handful of customers without an email address or internet access, that number keeps dropping. As businesses and individuals become increasingly mobile, businesses today must be proactive in promoting digital options for tax work delivery that are most convenient for the client. From a LEAN perspective, using secure and automated digital processes that all firm staff have been trained on is the most efficient way to serve clients.

Communicate with customers/staff:

Many businesses forget to ask, “Do your staff know how customers want to communicate with your staff and how company staff communicate with each other?” While phone and email were the primary means of communication for traditional customers, many tech-savvy employees and customers prefer texting, instant chat, and even video calling (Zoom, Microsoft Teams). Having all your staff trained in the use of these different media and documenting each person’s preferred method of communication in the customer contact file will ensure communications get through (and be sure to incorporate these methods for employees too! )

Annual tax debriefings can be a wonderful process for improving company production processes. As you go through the process this year, make it even better and more efficient by prioritizing the things that will make it easier for your customers to work with your business and take time to dive into “why » you do things and if necessary. are digital tools that have replaced this process.


Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, CGMA is director of firm technology strategy for Right Networks and partners exclusively with accounting firms on production automation, application optimization and practice transformation. He has been consistently listed as one of INSIDE Public Accounting’s Most Recommended Consultants, Accounting Today’s 100 Most Influential People, and CPA Practice Advisor’s Top Thought Leaders.

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